By: Samuel Axon
Facebook can mess up your life in a whole bunch of ways. It can get you fired or evicted, plunge you into debt with its addictive games, and even (yeah, right) infect you with syphilis. We wouldn’t look at all of those as serious threats, but we all know from experience that one threat is real: Facebook makes dating far more complicated than it used to be.
You can use Facebook’s privacy settings to mitigate the pains, and you can even make an impossible-to-maintain rule that you won’t accept friend requests from people you’re dating, but it’s almost guaranteed that Facebook will somehow catch up to your budding relationship and challenge it with some confusion eventually.
The site can be a boon for dating in some ways too, of course, but for now we’re talking about how it makes things complicated. Here are five ways that Facebook’s erosion of personal boundaries and privacy has made finding security in love and sex more difficult.
1. Overanalyzing Will Drive You Crazy
He posted on your wall four times today — does that mean he’s too into you? She keeps posting status updates about the cute guys in her office — should you be worried that you’ll be outdone? You’ve hardly seen any updates on his profile since you had a fight — is he hiding the updates from you, is he so depressed that he’s not engaging, or is it just a coincidence? Why does she keep untagging herself from photos with you in them?
If you’re already feeling insecure or suspicious, your partner’s Facebook feed will contribute about ten gallons of gasoline to it.
It’s obviously best not to indulge any obsessive or stalking behaviors, but love (and lust) drive people to do silly things. Sometimes you just can’t help but wonder what this or that update means for your relationship. Chances are it means nothing, but that won’t stop those nagging insecurities.
2. You See All the Action Your Ex Is Getting
That guy just posted on her wall thanking her for the wonderful time they had last night, but she just broke up with you last week. Man, that smarts.
Most of the items on this list have something to do with privacy. In this case, it’s not your privacy, it’s hers. It’s tough to get over someone you’ve just lost, but it’s even harder when you know she’s having a smashing time without you. Facebook makes sure of that.
Maybe it’s important for Facebook users to carefully watch their feeds to make sure that nothing comes up that will cause any hurt to any exes, or maybe their exes are responsible for clicking “hide” in the news feed until they’re over it. If at least one of those things doesn’t happen, it can get painful for one person, minimum.
3. Relationships and Breakups Are Public
Dramatized in the above scene from the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, it’s the most classic Facebook dating dilemma: Who pulls the trigger to make a relationship official on Facebook first? It would be embarrassing to declare yourself to be in a relationship if your (you thought) significant other doesn’t reciprocate.
Changing Facebook relationship status has, for better or worse, joined first date, first kiss, first night together, exclusivity talk, and first “I love you” on the list of important relationship milestones. It’s one of the most awkward milestones because it’s public by necessity.
That first status change isn’t the only challenge. When a relationship ends, how soon is it okay to switch back to single? Doing so right away seems callous, but holding on for too long makes you look fixated. And God forbid that somebody break the news to her partner that she’s dumping her partner by publicly switching her status over to “Single.” But we’ve all heard stories of that happening.
We’ve also heard stories of people seeing their dates switch to “In a Relationship” with someone else. That can’t feel good.
4. It’s a Record of Every Relationship Mistake You’ve Made
If he can’t help but snoop, he can look back and see all those consolation posts from friends about your last breakup. Maybe he’ll see your previous partner’s angry wall posts after you let him know that you wouldn’t be seeing him again. Maybe this new friend of yours will see your immature responses. Worst of all, he might see just how much of a loser your last man was and decide you’re playing in different leagues.
Facebook serves up a record of everything you’ve done since you created your profile. It’s best to carefully curate all that information to make sure none of it comes back to haunt you later, but that takes a lot of work, and some things are bound to slip through the cracks.
To make things even more frustrating, you can’t modify the privacy settings for things you’ve already posted. You might have hidden that incriminating status update from your last boyfriend, but since your new one just friended you today, you’ll have to remember to go back and delete it if you’re afraid he’ll be browsing.
5. Other People’s Comments Will Make Your Date Jealous
This has caused many a breakup. Some people tend towards jealousy, and as with item #1 on this list, the flame of insecurity will get doused in gasoline.
Let’s say some girl has a bunch of innocuous guy friends who are innocently posting flirtatious messages on her wall. Most folks are okay with flirting, but some can’t handle it, and something about seeing it written out on Facebook makes it worse. That girl’s boyfriend will either become passive aggressive or burst out in jealous rage, setting the stage for the end of an otherwise positive relationship.
This one illustrates the same point as all the others: Facebook brings us too close to people too quickly. Dating is as much about maintaining healthy and safe boundaries as it is about intimacy — at least at first — and social networking makes that harder than ever. It’s not dissimilar to dating someone who works in your office; you can’t control the exposure you’ll have, and that can be a recipe for disaster.
Have you had any awkward dating situations thanks to Facebook? Share your funny (or tragic) stories in the comments; we’d love to compile a list of the best ones.
Note: The above Facebook wall screencap was staged by volunteers. Thanks to Brenna Ehrlich and Kristin Jarrell for helping us out.
Posted in: Community&Culture